Football - Game of the Week
Pickerington North to face Gahanna's pressure
North senior Godwin Igwebuike runs through a gap in the Central defense during the Panthers' win earlier this season at Central. North will play host to Gahanna on Friday, Oct. 19, in a game with league and postseason implications.
The Gahanna High School football team has heard plenty about the dual Big Ten recruits it will face when it travels Friday, Oct. 19, to Pickerington North.
There's at least one other player in addition to the Panthers' Godwin Igwebuike and Jake Butt, who have verbally committed to Northwestern and Michigan, respectively, that the Lions will be keeping a close eye on in a game that has OCC-Ohio Division and postseason implications.
Gahanna has been giving up an average of 75 yards rushing, but its defensive front led by lineman Granyl Smith and linebackers Connor Prusz and Mitchell Rowell also will try to keep a hand in the face of North quarterback Mason Olszewski.
Olszewski has 453 yards rushing -- 8.7 yards per carry -- and has thrown for 1,132 yards with 13 touchdowns and two interceptions.
North, which beat Groveport 35-7 on Oct. 12, is off to its best start in program history at 8-0.
"A lot of the way to stop receivers from getting touches is by putting pressure on the quarterback, which is one thing we've been successful at," Prusz said.
"A lot of our guys on defense are returning starters and we all take pride in stopping the run."
Igwebuike has developed into one of central Ohio's most dynamic running backs, as he has 1,207 yards and 20 touchdowns on 109 carries. Butt is among the area's top receivers with 40 catches for 524 yards and nine touchdowns.
North also features wide receivers Jamie Hence and Roland Ladipo, who both have 11 receptions, and an offensive line led by seniors Grant Glackin and Chris Huhn.
"They obviously have a number of good athletes and everybody focuses on (Butt and Igwebuike), but they really spread the field and it's the other guys they have that get forgotten about," Lions coach John Snoad said.
"You've got to defend Igwebuike, but Olszewski can run and is dangerous when they get him out in open spaces. Do you defend the box or do you defend the field?"
Gahanna has given up an average of just 11 points during its 7-1 start and has allowed more than 200 yards of total offense only three times.
Emile Camm has six interceptions, and safeties Malon Smith and Parker Cavendish also have been steady in the Lions' secondary.
"We're coming in at 8-0 and we're excited, but we have to keep focused," North senior cornerback Kody Kasey said.
"Gahanna's going to be a tough game. We've come together and are all working together as a team. We're clicking and running to the ball and playing fast-paced defense."
Defensively, Butt lines up at end or at linebacker and Olszewski and Igwebuike are starting safeties. Dylan Weigel, who is North's leading tackler, is among the linebacking corps along with Warren Stoddard.
Tackle Geno Rollo leads in tackles for losses with 8.5.
Ladipo is the other cornerback.
Gahanna quarterback Alec Tuohy is 101-for-171 passing for 1,182 yards, and Valquez Davis and Kevin Randolph are the top receivers. Geoffrey Helms II and Smith have been among the top running backs, and Prusz rushed for two touchdowns in Gahanna's 31-20 win over Grove City on Oct. 12.
North is 5-0 in the league and Gahanna is 4-1, with its only loss to Reynoldsburg 21-7 on Sept. 28.
Last season, the Lions beat the Panthers 24-14 on the way to a 9-3 finish. North went 8-2 and finished one spot from the Division I, Region 3 playoffs.
"This is probably the toughest challenge the whole year," Ladipo said.
"We've improved a lot defensively since (beating) Pickerington Central (37-0 on Sept. 28). An undefeated (regular) season is something we've never talked about, but it's right there. We just have to take it one week at a time."